The World's Greatest Party – New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro

by Albert Silver
1/13/2012 – For nearly two years, Albert Silver has written articles, reports, how-to guides, and reviews for ChessBase, signed and unsigned, as the co-editor of the English site. Here is an introduction, in his own words, to this Brazilian polyglot we have welcomed to the ChessBase family. With it, he shares a report on the New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, providing numerous pictures and a video.

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The World's Greatest Party – the New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro

By Albert Silver

I would like to share with you a rather singular experience, the New Year celebrations in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as seen through the eyes of both a native and an outsider. I would also like to take this opportunity to properly introduce myself to the readers, an introduction long overdue, since for about two years I have been writing articles, reports, how-to guides, and reviews for ChessBase, signed and unsigned, as the co-editor of the English site.

Albert Silver

Though born in the US, I currently live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and have dual American and Brazilian nationality, I speak a few languages having lived and grown up in the US, Germany, France, and Brazil (no, I’m not an army brat), and unabashedly love chess. I also love to write. Still, while that might be enough to qualify me for freelance work, editorial requirements are a little steeper, especially for a company like ChessBase.

Some years back, I worked for Convekta, where I was a lead interface designer for Chess Assistant 6/7. My greatest contribution to it was to create the first Windows-based online interface, allowing it to connect to ICC, back when command-line interfaces such as BlitzIn were the only option. During this time, I also wrote documentation, produced and recorded video instruction guides, oversaw translations, and more. Eventually we parted ways, but it was a great experience, especially when you are both a computer nerd and chess aficionado.

In the interim, I have also written and contributed to the development of top backgammon software GNU Backgammon, writing the standard reference manual for it at the time, as well as becoming an expert in professional poker software (the kind with the endless stats) for which I have given many private classes and group training sessions.

These skills and knowledge have been invaluable in my work with ChessBase, and are obviously taken advantage of. It is also a special pleasure to be back in the mix of chess, since while I certainly developed skills in the aforementioned games, I never really loved them as I do chess. In terms of the game itself, I was an active competitor for several years, during which I was champion of Rio de Janeiro, as well as vice-champion in the Brazilian national league.

This work has also led to rare opportunities such as covering the São Paulo leg of the Masters Final a few months ago, and meeting the various champions.

Meeting Anand was a rare pleasure, and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. In a nutshell, Vishy is a very genuine person (believe me, they are rarer than you might think), and even he loosened up some when a couple of friends and I took him to a Brazilian specialty restaurant, where he indulged in a very light (or so the waiter promised) cocktail known as the caipirinha. It is a night I won't soon forget. Here are a couple of personal pics from the evening.

Albert and Vishy enjoying Brazilian specialties

Anand together with my friends Edgar and IM Christian Toth

Now that the introductions are out of the way, allow me to share what the New Year period is like in Rio de Janeiro, as it is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. For visitors from the northern hemisphere, the first thing that shocks is the heat. Since the seasons are inverted, it is smack in the middle of summer here, in a tropical area, with beaches all around. The 31st of December is both a typical summer day, and atypical.

A typical summer day means a day at the beach with beach sports...

...or sitting at a kiosk to enjoy a cold drink such as fresh coconut water.

Street sellers can be found everywhere selling their wares

Street musicians know that people will jump at any excuse to dance

The New Year period is spent as a giant party, with over two million people dressed in white (tradition) carousing the avenue. It is more than that though. Try to imagine two million people, all wishing each other the best, including you, and your wishing them the same. The feeling in the air is almost palpable, and the vibration it creates is just magic.
To accommodate this unique party, the avenue is completely closed off as of the afternoon, and cars are forbidden from being parked there. Platoons of tow trucks ensure no exceptions are made.

The city takes steps to be able deal with such a large crowd and brings in many
emergency helpers.

They are coordinated expertly to cover specific areas

There were also doctors all with a sunny disposition in spite of working over the New Year period

Ambulances were parked all around, but mobility would have been so bad as to make
even the worst rush hour traffic look like a Formula One race.

The ‘guests’ started to arrive early and the numbers trickled in slowly at first. The beaches were jam-packed, and many would circulate around, walking a marathon’s distance by the end of the night.

The afternoon was warm but not hot, and rain was forecast for the evening

The beaches became more and more crowded as people set up tent or towel for the
long haul. The cruise liners in the background would also grow more numerous as
they offered a view of it all from the comfort of the ship.

Giant billboards announcing the New Year celebrations (called 'Reveillon' in Portuguese) were everywhere

The streets were full of people walking

Many made no issue of sitting on the curb to rest

Others went to restaurants and cafés, though later at night, special New Year prices
in the hundreds, would be charged to each and all to stay there, though this included
food and drinks.

Revelers came prepared with knapsacks full of essentials and food and drink

For those lucky enough to actually live on the main avenue, Avenida Atlantica, this also meant making preparations to receive friends and family, as the home would become a safe haven for the duration of the New Year celebrations.

In a city such as Rio, where tropical heat is the norm, ice delivery is a business in
itself, and you have small stores literally dedicated to this. Some deliver on bicycle...

...and some make do with what they have.

This year also had a number of very high-profile open shows with stages set up at intervals along the beaches. The most significant was David Guetta, the star of electronic music featured in night clubs and aerobics classes, whose stage was set up so close that my home became automatic VIP viewing. Suddenly I had people with whom I had barely exchanged two words all year, calling me to remind me of our ‘friendship’ and “Oh by the way, what are you doing for the New Year?

Guetta’s concert also changed the dynamic of the New Year celebrations from plain celebration to mega event. A few years ago, the Rolling Stones held an open concert on the beach, exactly where the stage for David Guetta's show was erected, and it was a madhouse. Try to picture the most crowded nightclub you ever saw, and multiply that into a tsunami of millions. This is not an exaggeration.

At 3:30 PM, the avenue looked like this

By 6:30 PM it was already filling out

At 11 PM, it was a veritable tsunami of people in every direction for as far as the eye
could see. It had already started to rain, but this was no determent.

The buzz prior to the show was huge, and I had neighbors with similar views who rented out their places for thousands of dollars for the single night, for parties to be held. My home was only for close ones, and the price of entry was a six-pack or some other contribution. The concert was only scheduled to start at 2 AM, so there was plenty of time.

There were regular shows as of 10 PM, and a few sporadic ones throughout the day

Aside from Guetta, they consisted entirely of Brazilian singers and bands

At midnight, the fireworks were set off, and just as last year, they were controlled by computer, leading to a much tighter display, with spectacular pyrotechnics. It was a beautiful show, with good cheer and champagne all around.

The fireworks display lasted for fifteen full minutes

They were set off from cargo ships positioned throughout the shoreline

It was a beautiful and spectacular display

With bright colors and coordinated bursts... almost every color of the rainbow

Though fresh shows came on stage to entertain, the main show was what everyone was waiting for and when it finally did, the crowd went wild. Massive waves of people jumped up and down in every direction, and David Guetta really lived up to the hype, with a variety of visual effects from both the stage and the surrounding structure. Even the sound was superb, displaying no distortion even at its peak.

David Guetta had no trouble getting the crowd with him, and was visibly excited by
the huge enthusiasm.

It was a great show with light and color effects. The half body in the right of the picture
is not a reflection from the camera, but was a part of the display on the stage itself.

Guetta was deeply moved and told the crowd it was an experience he would treasure
for the rest of his life.

After it was all over, at 3:30 AM, most of my guests stayed for another hour to let the crowd dissipate, and become less claustrophobic to navigate.

Due to the mega event, the crowd was like this in every direction

Many either hitched a ride on the ambulances or followed them as they opened a path

All in all it was a fitting New Year celebration in Copacabana, though one can only wonder what the city has planned for next year. In the past fifteen years I have lived here, I have seen Rod Stewart live at the New Year, I have heard Strauss come over the loudspeakers unexpectedly after midnight followed by thousands of people waltzing away as if this were all a part of the plan, and I have seen even nothing at all, except for the bursts of fireworks and popping champagne corks.

One thing that never changes and that is that celebrating the New Year in Copacabana is always a memorable event.

A video montage I made of the New Year's celebrations with added video footage and pictures

Copyright ChessBase

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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